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February 13, 2014

His last season in pinstripes

His rally-killing, midair throw to first base while falling toward third and leaping into outfield grass is something that Red Sox fans will no longer have to stomach. His run — while valiant — is coming to an end.

It’s an announcement that will please Sox fans, but should it? Derek Jeter told the world via Facebook on Tuesday that at the conclusion of this upcoming season, his career in professional baseball will end.

“The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it was time to move forward,” the post reads. “ ... Now it’s time for the next chapter.”

Listen, I get it. As long as a someone rocking pinstripes steps to the plate at Fenway, they won’t be well-regarded. But, can’t we make an exception?

Jeter has long been in a short class of athletes who represent not only themselves or their organization, but their sport in a positive manner. While many ball players have been made better by their sport, Jeter’s sport was made better by him — such was the case with Mariano Rivera who finished his career last season.

So while the thought of the Yankees minus their famed captain may be intriguing, it’s guys like Jeter who have kept the league’s reputation afloat in this era of syringes and capsules. Rather than getting a big head — literally and figuratively — over the course of nearly two decades in the spotlight, Jeter held himself to a higher regard. While often tempted to lose his composure, he didn’t, and while superstars became self-promoting, he remained humble.

Baseball, not money symbols. Batting practice, not chemicals. Pride, not arrogance.

What many should begin to question is not why but when this announcement has been made. In an age of up-to-the-second information, Jeter’s announcement comes more than half a year early. Famed athletes rarely finish a season — or start one — before announcing the end of their career anymore.

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